In a strange way, Dmitriy Salita had to leave home in order to find his roots as a fighter.
The welterweight Brooklynite returns home this Saturday night as part of the highly anticipated Golden Boy Promotions event at Barclays Center. It is being touted as big time boxing’s return to the city, and it also marks the first time many casual fans have seen Salita since his 2010 loss to Amir Khan.
But while the fight in New York is very much a homecoming for Salita, it is the Kronk Gym in Detroit that now houses him during camp.
Following the loss to Khan, Salita’s late mentor Jimmy O’Pharrow contacted Emanuel Steward about possibly taking the 30-year old under his wing. Being familiar with Salita–having seen him as an amateur and on undercards prior to HBO telecasts–Steward happily welcomed him into the Kronk family and assigned the new project to right-hand man Javon “Sugar” Hill.
“He wasn’t an aggressive fighter. He was being so careful with everything,” said Hill. “He gave me a DVD of him, the documentary Orthodox Stance, and I saw footage of him boxing as an amateur and he really can box. He used to be an aggressive boxer, but now he was more of a passive boxer. So from that point I just started working with him and tried to get him back aggressive again.”
As a youngster, Salita (34-1-1, 18 knockouts) first took interest in boxing after seeing Mike Tyson, the blueprint of an aggressive fighter. It was a style he employed as an amateur, but slowly drifted away from it once the headgear came off.
“The big adjustment is that really, really consistently hard boxing. Every day, whether it’s an amateur or a pro, they’re coming to kick your ass. Sparring is like a fight, almost. They don’t believe in a lot of boxing, but it’s all quality. Twelve rounds, all competitive. That, and they always keep the gym very hot,” Salita told RingTV.com.
Hill says the cozy confines of the Starrett City Boxing Club were preventing Salita from truly improving as a fighter.
“In New York, they don’t get that hard work. At the Kronk, those guys are aggressive. They don’t care who you are, your record, your name. They’re trying to hurt you and get you out of there to make a name for themselves,” said Hill.
Trying to make a name for himself at Salita’s expense on Saturday will be Brandon Hoskins (16-2-1, 8 KOs), a scrappy Missouri club fighter who has been stopped by Keith Thurman and Phil Lo Greco in his last two outings. If the matchmaker was correct, he will accord hometown boy the opportunity to be the aggressor and look good in front of his friends and family.
In his four fights under the Kronk banner, there has been a noted change in his approach. While the opposition hasn’t been stellar, his commitment to body punching in stopping James Wayka in particular was an uplifting sign for his backers.
“Before he would get on the inside and he would tie up, and that’s it,” noted Hill. “Now when he gets inside, he’s looking for his shots, looking for openings and controlling the fight.”
The previous brand of timidity likely contributed to his downfall in the one-minute wipeout he suffered against Khan in his lone world title opportunity. Salita hit the canvas inside the first 10 seconds of the bout, and never regained his bearings.
“Boxing can be an unforgiving sport. Amir Khan was the easiest fight of my life, because I didn’t get hurt, I just kind of got shocked. Because of all the things that were happening surrounding the fight, the situation kind of shocked me,” said Salita, who feels a longer audition is necessary before the general public judges him as a fighter.
“I feel that I haven’t been judged properly, and that there’s a double standard in many ways. There are many guys who have had similar things happen to them, and have had the ability to come back and have been touted as the next great thing, back on a major network.”
Coming into the fight cold could be a concern once again this weekend. Salita is a practicing Orthodox Jew who observes Shabbat. This means that Salita will be in a state of rest until roughly 6:50. According to the fighter, he is tentatively scheduled to hit the ring around 7:30, giving him just 40 minutes to get to the arena, wrap his hands and warm-up before “going to work.”
At this stage in his career however, everything is a rush.
As with his progress inside the ropes, when it comes to his business dealings, it’s time to get aggressive.
I’m 34-1, I’ve been a pro for over 10 years. I’m really looking for big opportunities,” said Salita. “If I don’t get a significant fight sometime soon, I don’t really want to be doing this for too long.”
Photos / Don Emmert/AFP-Gettyimages